24 January 2009

The Reconciling

Today my son received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, otherwise known as confession, for the first time.

If you aren't Catholic let me clue you in on what this entails: first, you go into the confessional (at our church it's a little room) and then you tell the priest your sins. He forgives you and gives you some sort of penance to do usually involving praying so many "Our Father"s and/or "Hail Mary"s and another prayer called "The Act of Contrition".

Evan took his first confession quite seriously, as did most of the kids in his class. He and his fellow second graders had been preparing for this for well over a month. "I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to tell Father," he told me last week. I said that's fine, that's between him and our priest. "I only want to tell him my mortal sins." For those of you not in the know, mortal sins are super duper bad, like committing murder. Which makes me wonder what Evan considers a mortal sin. He's not even eight years old (yet).

Today brought back memories of my first confession: I was ten and my mom, sister and I were in the process of converting to Catholicism to appease my mom's second husband (whom I will forever refer to as That Drunken Bastard). I don't know why it was so important to him that we convert considering the only time he ever went to Mass was on Easter and Christmas Eve.


Father Wallner, our hometown parish priest was a kindly man. He walked me through the process of First Confession after school one day. I prayed for a while, then entered the confessional which offered the option of a screen between the priest and penitent or face-to-face. I chose to sit across from Fr. W and chat. The area behind the screen was like the set of a 1970's-era TV talk show: a raised platform covered in burnt orange shag carpeting, a little round table covered in various pamphlets between two bucket-style chairs, a wicker lamp suspended overhead, casting a yellow glow over the proceedings. I don't recall the particulars of my confession (it probably involved the average, every day sins kids commit: not being nice to a sibling/friend/parent, not praying, lying to my mom, etc.), but I do know I didn't tell him how much I hated my mother's husband. That was something I knew not to talk about. To anyone, priest or no.

But even though my initial experience was a good one, I've never really liked going to confession. The last time I went was the day before Frank and I were married. And I don't feel guilty for that. Just because I'm Catholic, doesn't mean I believe the Church lock, stock and barrel. I've always felt strange talking to a priest who was supposed to be a stand-in for God, even those priests I've been very close to. I believe that God knows my heart of hearts: knows what I am truly sorry for and loves me regardless. We're squared away, me and God.

But I'm happy Evan feels comfortable enough with our parish priests that he can go to them, confess whatever sins he feels he's committed, and feel better for it. He said he'd go again.

And then we went bowling.


Tildy said...

When I had my First Confession, I remember sitting in the pew next to my mom whispering that I had nothing to confess. I think I knew that picking on my brothers and fighting with them was inevitable and not something I would be shunned for. I actually think I lied and "confessed" that I had lied to my parents (something I wouldn't have even dreamed of doing as a kid). How funny/awful is that?!

Quigs78 said...

I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and we had to go to confession. I remember getting together with my friends in grade school to make up things to confess because we couldn't think of anything.

I guess we could've confessed that.